There were many questions about whether Geno Smith would be benched in the aftermath of the Jets' blowout loss to the Ravens. Rex Ryan stuck with the rookie signal caller, though, a move somewhat controversial. After watching Geno's performance a second time, I can understand better why Rex made the decision he made. Geno might be a problem on the offense, but there are much bigger problems.
Geno's 9 for 22 stat line is ugly. 13 incompletions on 22 passes is not a winning formula in the NFL. After watching things over, though, it wasn't quite as bad as the numbers look. I counted six passes that hit receivers in the hands. There was a ball batted down at the line on a timing pattern. There was a throw away on a play where nobody was open. There was an interception on a third down play when the Jets were outside field goal range on the plus side of the field. Nobody was open so Geno saw a one on one and trusted David Nelson to make a play. It didn't happen. Geno did something similar later in the game with Greg Salas on New York's biggest gain of the day. There was also a checkdown on the first drive Geno missed on third down. During this play, Austin Howard got driven right into Geno's throwing lane. Even a completion there probably results in Bilal Powell getting tackled before scoring and the field goal New York ended up with. Those account for 10 of the 13 incompletions.
The protection was also ugly. I was surprised to see Geno's pocket presence was a lot better than I thought it was on the first viewing. Baltimore could have easily had four or five more sacks had Geno not made some nice moves to buy extra time. The sacks weren't particularly pretty either. There was one where the Jets were running a two man route, and the quarterback ended up on the ground within 3 seconds of the snap. There was one where Geno stepped up and tried to check down but ended up stepping right into D'Brickashaw Ferguson's man getting beaten. Distressingly, Ferguson's problems in this game appeared to be more about him getting beaten soundly than about Brian Winters' struggles.
Don't mistake this for trying to be a Geno apologist. He did not play well. There were some troubling signs. More than once he missed a completion because the defense read his eyes staring down a receiver. This seemed to happen on his second interception. And while you can say he hit a receiver in the hands, some of those balls could have been delivered a little better, and there was an easier checkdown in one or two instances. In addition, I think some of the protection woes mentioned above could easily be on Geno. While I was pleasantly surprised about his pocket awareness, there were some puzzling mismatches that might have been due to Geno making a bad presnap read and setting a bad protection.
On most of the plays, though, I'm not sure what Geno could have done. Most of the time he was throwing to the only guy who had created a small passing window, and these windows were very small. Again, this is not to say Geno would be great if he had more help. It's just impossible to say because the guys out there are presenting him with so few opportunities. We don't know whether he would be good. It's just next to impossible for anybody to play well when the quarterback gets so little help.
Watching that game over only confirms my view that there's no point in throwing Matt Simms to the lions. Simms can't create opportunities that do not exist. Unlike Geno, he also doesn't have practice reps with the first team offense so he will not have enough feel to anticipate the few instances where his receivers do give small opportunities.
Don't get me wrong. Geno has to be better in a number of areas, but this offense is going nowhere unless the supporting cast starts providing a heck of a lot more support. I'm a big believer in the quarterback being the straw that stirs the drink on the offense. Last year, I was frustrated by watching the film and seeing how many opportunities Mark Sanchez left on the field on most weeks. I had to watch a number of these plays over because I almost couldn't believe my notes the first time I read on how bad the supporting cast was.